Alternative States of Consciousness in Shamanism, Imaginal Psychotherapies, Hypnotherapy, and Meditation Including a Shamanism and Meditation Inspired Personal and Professional Training Program for the 21st Century Psychotherapist
A Cognitive, Intrapsychic, Experiential, and Transpersonal Research Project and Program
|Institution:||American Pacific University|
|Advisor(s):||Alexander M. Docker, DCH, PhD|
Shamanism, hypnosis, imaginal psychotherapies, and meditation are based on the use of what we in the modern western world think of as non-ordinary human consciousness. These four modalities have fundamental similarities and differences in purpose, theory, technique, type of alternative consciousness, and their application of non-ordinary reality. Shamanism, the oldest and most intertwined with the cultures in which it is practiced, will be explored as a model for individual healing and transformation and professional training. The shamanic way will also be explored as a model of consciousness and a world-view that offers individuals, groups, and society much needed coping mechanisms, healing techniques, and transformative values that may be helpful in dealing with this trying and important transition time for humanity. Imaginal therapies, meditation and hypnosis all have their roots in shamanism, although in some parts of the world at certain times in history, shamanism borrowed from meditation in its adaptation and development.
A brief history of shamanism and the use of the altered states of consciousness and imagination in healing, given in Section One, Chapter Two, page 59, will serve as a foundation for an exploration of ordinary and alternative consciousness. While consciousness in one form or another is experienced by all humans at all times, it is presently little noticed, understood, appreciated, and utilized by the layperson, psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, academic, or researcher. It is usually not considered a meaningful, let alone crucial, variable in comprehending the human being and devising strategies for improving and healing the human condition. A particular type of consciousness, named the therapeutic state of consciousness and based on the shamanic and meditative states of consciousness, will be offered as an optimum consciousness for the psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and healer. This therapeutic state of consciousness can serve as balance to the counterproductive effects of an overly rational western society as well as model for a way of life in which the scientific, intellectual mind is but one, albeit important, aspect of the whole person. Principles for training in the therapeutic state of consciousness will be outlined and discussed along with guidelines for implementing a personal training program in what will be called 21st Century Therapy. A specific set of experientially based techniques will be offered as a way to carry perception and knowledge gained from the therapeutic state of consciousness into the psychotherapist’s office.
I have personal experience with each of the four modalities, allowing me to offer first hand knowledge, heartfelt examples, and hands on description of the phenomenology associated with each discipline. In the interest of relevancy, accuracy, depth, meaningfulness, and vitality, I have used myself as the primary case study for this paper.
In nearly six decades of daily life in Southern California and adventure, training, and speaking engagements on three continents, I have grown into the realization that the full experience of life in the moment is generally the most productive, healthy, and fulfilling way to spend my time on this planet. I have learned to choose being fully alive in the present whether in the breathtaking exhilaration of a trek to 17,000 feet in Peru or the quiet intimacy of a therapy session, in telling stories to grandchildren or feeling an earthquake shaking our house and toppling our chimney, in losing a best friend or gaining a life partner, and in the wedding of a daughter or a Physician’s declaration that “she probably won’t make it.” Life can be an incredibly joyous and painful journey. A life well lived deals with everything our time has to offer with honesty and grace, love and fear, courage and tears, confidence and acceptance, always taking one purposeful step at a time.
A fulfilling journey in the counseling and psychotherapy process begins with a safe, caring relationship between my client and myself. My first task as a therapist is creating a secure environment that encourages and develops hope, respect, introspection, honesty, and self-responsibility in the therapy room. In this context, each client may begin to contact his/her own inner wisdom that knows what is in his/her highest good. I believe that the “real therapist” in the room is the client’s “higher self.” Therefore, my second responsibility is to help develop my client’s relationship with this inner wisdom ,not to be the source of his/her wisdom.
Within this safe, creative environment and with my client’s ever developing relationship with his/her inner self, the course of therapy takes as many forms as the 1,000s of clients I have had the honor to work. Length of treatment varies from a few sessions to years of deep exploration and growth. Some individuals and families have had three or four series of sessions with me focused around different concern that reflect different developmental stages of life. In fact I have clients that I see today that I first met when they were children in family therapy that returned a decade later for premarital counseling and then came back again more than two decades later as parents with their own “relating to teenager” issues.
I value creativity and flexibility in the therapeutic process, including the use of techniques as diverse as goal setting and dream work, sensitivity and humor, science and metaphor, compassionate listening and straightforward honesty, cognitive understanding and intuitive knowing, behavioral change and exploring the meaning of life; all within an atmosphere of beauty and genuineness.